The massive manhunt for the perpetrators of last year's Boston Marathon bomb attack exposed some "fault lines" in coordinating law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, according to a study released Thursday.
Emergency responders racing to a crime scene without waiting for orders might save lives by tending to the wounded, but during the chaotic chase to catch the suspects a few days later, they also risked being shot by police, the Harvard University report found.
The hairiest events after the bombing, which killed three people and injured 264, began three days later when the two ethnic Chechen brothers, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his younger brother Dzhokhar, now 20, shot and killed a university police officer in a failed attempt to steal his gun and flee the city.
The shooting prompted hundreds of local police, as well as law enforcement officials who had traveled from other towns to help with the investigation, to race to Watertown, Massachusetts, where the suspects traded shots with police.
Officers surrounded the suspects, placing police at a high risk of shooting one another, the report found. "They were incredibly lucky that there weren't a lot of friendly fire casualties," said lead author Herman Leonard, a professor of public management at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
The study was based on interviews with some 100 law enforcement and other public officials who took part in the response.
Despite problems during the manhunt, the report found that law enforcement officials worked together smoothly on the day of the bomb blasts, evidenced by the fact that most of the casualties, many of whom lost legs, survived despite substantial loss of blood.
Dzhokhar will stand trial in November on 30 federal counts stemming from the April 15 attack, which left three people dead and more than 250 others injured.